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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 November 2011
This is the first of four historical volumes covering the years between 1066 and 2010. In this volume the author, Nicholas Vincent has written a concise and extremely well thought out history book which covers the years between the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.
As the historical content is so rich and varied, it never feels like you are reading a stuffy textbook. Each chapter is meticulously researched, and details the social and economic changes in an easy to read manner. I found that the use of genealogy charts and maps at the beginning of the book helped put royal lineage and country boundaries into context, and a comprehensive further reading guide is easily accessible at the end of the book, and is divided into separate chapters for ease of use.
Overall, I thought this was a really informative book. I discovered things I didn't know about the way in which medieval England developed as a country, and as I am an enthusiastic reader of historical novels, I am sure that this book will be invaluable as an aide memoire.
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on 19 July 2015
For Prof. Vincent, 500 pages of tightly packed text is 'brief'! Perhaps 'brief' here means that he shoots from the hip to from start to finish to punch out as much as possible, and faster than possible, of the staggering volume of information about this period at his command. This work is a riveting read from an author whose dazzling authority expresses itself in a style that is at once elegant and downright gutsy: not one flabby sentence, not a moment of boredom, and not a few laughs.
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on 26 May 2013
I've started reading this book in Costa Coffee in Waterstones. I immediately liked this book because I felt that in its opening chapters it gave 1066 a fresh modern treatment that helped you see events from a different perspective. It steps back from just telling the story, to being a bit more critical about how much of the story is actually true. In particular it is very critical of the legitimacy of King Harold, the one who got an arrow in his eye at the Battle of Hastings. Without making a big fuss, it starts the story earlier than 1066, despite the title of the book.

However in the next few pages, I felt the book lost its way a little. I know that computer gamers like to play with historical models and 'what if' type scenarios. So the author discussed a few 'what if' scenarios. This makes the book feel very contemporary. It also makes me think that it will date very quickly as todays current references become old hat.

In someways it is good because it is thought provoking. A knight's contribution to the Royal Exchequer can be described as 0.5 man years in taxation terms. In other ways, it seems to start to lose the plot and to forget to tell the central story. I found that I was skipping a few pages at this point.

The reviews are very mixed and the stars are spread quite evenly. My father-in-law (in Scotland) on the basis of his surname told me that he was of French descent and that he was surrounded by Huns. It is interesting to think that 'the myth' is much more important to people than 'the truth'. It is a bit like the newspaper man who says that the truth should not spoil a good story.

So basically you have 'the story' and then you have a discussion about whether 'the story' is true.

I found that The Normans [DVD] had much more profound effect on me than this book. In this book it mentions in passing that the Normans would cut off the hands and feet of people they did not like. The DVD made the Norman Conquest sound much more brutal. It made me think twice about the heritage and legitimacy of our Kings and Queens. Kings and Queens that history books to a certain extent, venerate.

I have upgraded my review to five stars because I feel that a book like this is really quite an achievement.
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on 12 February 2013
The style of these great little books is to provide the reader with a brief overview of the period covered. It encourages those who're interested to persue further reading, whilst providing the salient details to those who just wish to become familiar with the key events of the times.
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on 27 February 2013
I am finding this very interesting and it has a different approach to most history books. It is very largely a social history describing the effects of the headline events rather than simply the events. Covers most social classes and points out the data limitations. As a kindle book I find it limiting as I often wish to turn back a few pages or even a chapter and, if this is possible on Kindle, I have not mastered it.
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on 2 May 2012
I love medieval history and this is a great book - really interesting and informative says it as it is - comparing with more recent events. Whilst it took a while to get into it, once I did, I din't want to put it down.
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on 20 May 2013
I give two stars to the effort of writing this book, it's likely a grand task to sum up 420 years in a single book: The entire Norman/Angevin/Plantagenet/Lancaster/Yorkist era. Somehow still, others manage to do this task so extraordinarily that this book is so very pale in comparison despite the beautiful cover, the coronation portrait of Richard II which is the earliest royal portrait, now in Westminster Abbey. But the book itself is like the reign of Richard II compared to for example, that of his grandfather the "Perfect King" Edward III (just quoting a great title of Ian Mortimer's book) or that of Henry II or Henry V's short reign. Richard himself was somewhat shallow and certainly prejudiced, autocratic and simply "too full of himself" as we would say now, so believing in his own divine authority that he could not imagine anyone saying no to him or opposing him. He played with lives, which I found is similar to how this book looked at those whose lives it covers. I am somewhat subjective on the matter but this is the book that allows itself to call the duke of Gloucester "the greatest of armchair generals" in the 1430s/1440s - as if the same duke didn't fight at Agincourt or served for years in France under Henry V. (The comment is made without care to include the reason why, except that he aimed to continue the war in France... but why, what was he trying to achieve, what were the reasons, etc etc... the most important part is not there, just a comment that by itself comes across as plain and judgmental, shallow, ignoring how the subject of the comment wished and tried to take part of the fighting in person.) It was just as biased about other characters who are 'usually condemned' by most historians who tend to feel that their view and opinion, their judgement is more important to be showered on the general public than the actual facts. Or even worse, who wish to write books but then they also wish to serve the common ground and not to experience, research or help the progress forward, but instead repeat the mainly accepted views of their predecessors, often from the 19th/early 20th century onwards when view on history and characters was even more biased and full of judgement. I can fully understand that in a single volume of a book to cover such a huge topic it is required to simplify things, and cover what would be relevant to progress. However there is a limit I believe in what is to be "cut" and certainly no 'characters' shall be simplified to the form of shallow villainy for example, just because it serves this purpose of presenting history in a compact form, stripping it of its details to the point that relations and characteristics become lost or even worse, modified.

This leads to my other problem, which is with the detail. I've read and reviewed here two other books aimed at the same or similar range of time; The Plantagenets: The Kings That Made Britain I would consider about the same amount of detail as here, while the illustration and the specific 'extras' included make it a far more superior book, covering the same era. The other, The Plantagenets does not include the reigns of kings from the Lancastrian and Yorkist cadet houses, but the writing and the objectivity, the amount of detail in a single book like this one makes it again, a far more superior edition. My third candidate for recommendation over this book would be Foundation: The History of England Volume 1 (History of England Vol 1) in which also the Anglo-Saxon and even earlier periods are covered really briefly, and author and accomplished historian Peter Ackroyd ends Foundation with the death of Henry VII so the 'recovery' after the Wars of the Roses is included, it does not end so at Bosworth Field. But even Ackroyd did a better job at putting history into perspective without bias or overshadowing the material, and his book has two more advantages: Little short "interludes", chapters on certain topics such as Trade, London, the Black Death, medieval past time etc in between the chapters covering each king (now I wrote the examples for these from head so there might actually be others, but I remember one was about how Europeans viewed the English at the time of Henry V and I found it funny and engaging.) The other is that it's a Volume 1 of what is to be a 6-volume series, with Volume 2 The Tudors already available.

I have the habit of reading into history books and deciding on them based on several topics that require great care and attention to detail to describe accurately - this book I could not finish reading in whole and that is because it failed my test: I read the part that covers Henry VI's minority council to see if the author cared about the readers enough to not to take a side, or the author decided to "simplify" things by calling either Cardinal Beaufort or the duke of Gloucester evil, and the other the victim. This book failed on that part and how it handled the demise of the English Dual Monarchy in France. Similarly to Alison Weir who regardless of how established and well-researched, I find subjective and failing on the same test in Lancaster And York: The Wars of the Roses - I consider myself and would consider anyone who reads history books instead of Jean Plaidy and Philippa Gregory novels to grow in knowledge and gain insight, to be someone who does this for the sake of being able to form his/her own opinion so I cannot recommend any book which would advertise prejudice over accuracy.
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on 13 August 2013
Bought this a while ago, still reading it, one of those books I delve into on occasions and find different views on British history.
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on 31 January 2015
a good book to dip into if you want a brief idea of a certain period of history
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on 9 October 2014
Great book with lots of detail. Will now read the rest of the series.
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